NJ Keep It Green Cheers Passage Of Open Space Bill

NJ Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation organizations, today cheered the long-awaited passage of legislation (SCR84) to establish a long-term source of sustainable funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s open spaces, parks, waterways and historic sites. 

The Coalition praised the Assembly for its bipartisan support of the bill and for its 58-9 super-majority vote to advance the measure to the November ballot.

“The Assembly clearly understands the critical importance of investing in programs that protect our water supply, preserve our family farms, provide for parks and other spaces, and safeguard our historic treasures,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert. “With little to no funds left for these programs, we are incredibly grateful that the Assembly recognized the urgent nature of the situation and voted to advance the measure to the ballot this November. 

“The Coalition is thankful for the leadership of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Stephen Sweeney and is especially appreciative of the dedication and commitment of environmental champions Sen. Bob Smith and Assemblyman John McKeon,” Gilbert continued. “We are also grateful for the bipartisan support of the bill, including from Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman who co-sponsored the measure in the Senate.”

The Senate voted 36-1 in favor of the legislation in June. Today was the last day for the Assembly to vote in order for the question to be on the ballot this fall.

With the passage of the bill, voters will be asked to approve the measure this November, which would reallocate 4 percent of corporate business tax revenues that are already dedicated to environmental programs through fiscal year 2019 and dedicate an additional 2 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues from fiscal year 2020 going forward. 

The funding will replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding for watershed protection, underground storage tank removal, brownfields, and clean-ups of polluted sites. 

Open space, farmland and historic preservation programs received an average of $200 million annually under the 1998 Garden State Preservation Trust.  Under the ballot question, preservation programs would receive approximately $71 million annually the first five years, and then $117 million annually thereafter, providing reduced but critical baseline funding.

“This measure will ensure that critical efforts can continue to protect open spaces that provide clean water, flood protection and outdoor recreation, as well as preserve farmland and historic sites that enhance our quality of life and economy,” said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator. “We are thrilled that the Assembly passed this bill so that voters will once again have the opportunity to demonstrate their strong support for protecting our land and water by voting yes in November.”

Since 1961, New Jersey voters have passed 13 out of 13 ballot measures supportive of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation.

The NJ League of Municipalities, NJ Highlands Council, 18 counties and multiple municipalities have all passed resolutions supporting sustainable funding for preservation and stewardship. In addition, former Governors Byrne and Kean have endorsed the measure.

About NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 185 park and conservation organizations working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.  

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